Tea Before the Train Hits

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May 30, 2017 by Öykü Us



Time after Time by Dogan Kokdemir

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Learning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar…

We run alongside an unending tunnel; with innocence in our eyes, with spring in our step, we are exposed to knowledge that has been left behind by those who have passed a long time ago.  It is dark, but we are not afraid, for we have passed such paths under the sun. Surely, wise individuals such as ourselves would know if something dangerous would come to pass.

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

We are those who, under the darkness, have the most beautiful of faces; under the silence, the most beautiful voices. We are those who will not be forgotten, who have certainly left a positive mark on this world. Alas…

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us-if at all-not at lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

Little do we know, that in a tunnel such as this, there are worse things besides the blanket of darkness which covers us.

Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star
A light that does not belong to us.
A light which is far, far away.
As bright as Sirius and as alien.
And it is coming closer and closer.
Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer—
Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom

Alas, this curious light shines ahead, illuminating our shapeless heads, our misconceptions, our corrupt realities, leaving only the broken innocence of ignorance.

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

The headlights shine beyond the long tunnel of life. We might have lived “well”, per say; but in reality, we have learned nothing.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone

And “wellness” is just a state of mind, is it not? A completely subjective concept, but only when it is compared to others, it has some semblance of meaning.

The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

Whatever knowledge we have obtained, it is useless, for it will not help us. It will not let us escape the greatest of fears: the oncoming train inside a one-way tunnel. Thus;

  1. Before we are torn asunder.
  2. Before our bodies paint the walls with the boring color of crimson,
  3. Before our bones break from the oncoming pressure before our meat is scattered alongside the speeding vehicle before we DIE-
  4. Before we are “gone”

We shall first sit, and have some tea. I think some early grey would be appreciated?

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

No, no… It must be something authentic. We have been drinking that sort of thing for our whole lives now. I have been carrying various kinds of teas during my journey of life, and this last one must be special; fancy even. We silently thank the light that illuminates us, for we can make our tea without burning ourselves.

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men

We still have not decided on the tea. What about some Da Hong Pao, perhaps? I jest, of course; I could never afford it. Green tea, then? No? It gives you a tummy ache, you say?

We do not have much time, you know?

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning

There is neither the time nor the equipment required to boil the water, thus we must make do with what we currently have. We act with the grace of newborn infants, but nevertheless, we manage to pour the water into the cups without spilling the precious liquid. With tea leaves in the cups, we wait, and gaze at the twin lights, coming closer as we sit.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

The water in my cup is lukewarm, and the tea leaves are stale, as they have been in my backpack for days, perhaps even for weeks. But the tea tastes divine.

It tastes as if it is truly the last aroma that will ever touch our mouths.

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

Life is very long

While we thought that we were walking in the path of life, we were treading on the path of death all along. Instead of passing from one point to another inside the train, we will now pass away under the feet of hundreds of passengers who will never see us.

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

The twin stars are brightening, our hands are shaking with excitement. A cup shatters behind me, was it yours, or mine?

No matter. It was not expensive anyway.

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

I wish for another cup of tea I will never drink, for another kiss I will never get, for another second I will never spend. We are holding hands, but I am far away from you.

There is a roar-

With a feeling of rust and dirt-

Twin stars-

Those stars, they shine a dead light:

As bright as Sirius-

As red as blood-

My hand inside yours-

Warm as the summer sun-

A force, and my hand is gone, gone alongside you-

As if a veil has been passed through-

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang, but a whimper


Eliot, T. S. (1925). The hollow men. In The complete poems and plays 1909-1950 (pp. 56-59). New York: Harcourt Brace & Company.

Author info: E. Öykü Us, MA Cand., Experimental Social Psychology Program (Baskent Un., Ankara) | email: eoykuus [AT] gmail[.]com

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